Varsity in rating race
Teens confess to killing dentist
Girl denied Hrithik dream date
Salt Lake in the dark after transformer fire
The City Diary
Highrise in a house of god
Magistrate beaten up, thrown out of running train
Cops hamstrung by taxi meters
TV blackout for poll stars
Prisoner fights in people’s court

 
 
VARSITY IN RATING RACE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
Time: 9 am.
Place: Calcutta University’s Rajabazar Science College campus.
Surprise element: It’s house full. Almost all teachers and employees are in, well before the 10.30 am starting time. And the offices, classrooms, lecture halls, laboratories are all spic and span.
Guess who’s coming to the campus today?: The newly-formed National Assessment Accreditation Committee (NAAC) team.

Calcutta University campuses wore a full and festive look on Monday as the NAAC team began a four-day inspection of its 72 departments. On the committee’s report depends the ‘star’ rating of the university, and also its future funding by the University Grants Commission.

After being left far behind by Jadavpur University in the race for the ‘centre of excellence’ tag from UGC, Calcutta University is now all decked up, desperate for a five-star billing. Till now, the NAAC team has given North Bengal University a three-star and Burdwan University a four-star rating. The inspection team has been formed recently by the UGC, which has made it mandatory for all universities in the country registered under the Commission to get NAAC accreditation in order to avail of funds.

On Monday, the Calcutta University campuses came alive a good two hours before most employees troop in on other days. Sources at the university said ‘full and timely attendance’ has been made a must for these four days, through a circular issued by registrar T.K. Mukherjee. “We have been instructed to make sure that the inspection team finds the university at its best,” admitted an employee.

There was something for the 2,500-odd employees to cheer about. Lunch was on the university. While at College Street and Rajabazar, the menu read plain rice, dal, vegetable curry and fish, on the Alipore campus the lunch packets contained just fried rice and vegetable curry.

The 11-member NAAC team visited the Rajabazar, Alipore and medical college campuses, inspecting around 28 departments, after having started the day with a meeting on the College Street campus. “The university works under several constraints. We understand the faculty members have many problems. But we are happy to see that some of the teachers are working hard despite the constraints,” observed Harish Puri, an NAAC official, after completing the inspection of the sociology department on the Alipore campus.

At Rajabazar Science College, university officials including science secretary M.K. Sengupta, escorted the team to various technology departments. Some teachers expressed dissatisfaction over the university officials’ “deliberate move” to delay the inspection team at a few departments, ensuring that it did not have the time to visit “those departments which would have shown the university in poor light”. For example, they alleged, the university’s computer centre was all but ignored, while the radio physics department, one of the best in the university, was where the team spent a long time.

On Tuesday, the action shifts to the Rajabazar science department, the Ballygunge Science College, the economics department on B.T. Road, and the College Street campus.

   

 
 
TEENS CONFESS TO KILLING DENTIST 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE AND CHARLES NANDI
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
Nine hours after dentist Surya Chakraborty was killed at his CIT Road residence on Sunday, police arrested and charged two of his teenaged chamber attendants with “premeditated murder”.

Detective chief Banibrata Basu said the first arrest was carried out early on Monday when Chitto Ranjan Kallai, 15, confessed to the crime. Kallai also handed over the murder weapon, a blood-stained block of wood used to bolt a door, to the investigators. Based on Kallai’s testimony and a reconstruction of the crime, the sleuths arrested Ramesh Majumdar, 16, the other attendant who is believed to have planned the murder. Kallai was produced before the Sealdah court and remanded in police custody till May 5.

Kallai, hailing from Orissa, had been living with the Chakrabortys for the past three years. The cops aren’t too convinced about the motive given by the duo — the fact that the dentist had asked Kanak Majumder, Ramesh’s brother, to stop supplying medical equipment to the chamber. What has complicated matters further is the fact that there was a feud between the 42-year-old dentist and other owners in the housing complex who wanted him to vacate.

According to Kallai, Kanak had apparently been supplying the stuff for the past 10 years. But recently, Chakraborty had hauled him up for “the poor quality” and shown him the door. When Kanak and Ramesh claimed their dues of Rs 4,000, the doctor had refused to pay up. That’s when Ramesh decided to kill Chakraborty.

On Monday, at the CIT Road chamber of Surya Chakraborty, Kallai gave the sleuths a graphic account of the murder: “Around 4.30 pm, I shut the windows of the chamber. The doctor was counting out his money when Ramesh hit him on the head with the block of wood... As the doctor slumped to the floor, Ramesh bolted the door from inside and instructed me to hit the doctor again. He then placed the wood on the doctor’s throat and stamped on it. Ramesh left the chamber and I ran up to the fourth floor to inform the others.”

   

 
 
GIRL DENIED HRITHIK DREAM DATE 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
For 12-year-old Reshmi (not her real name) of Jadavpur, “mad about Hrithik” like countless other youngsters in the city, the superstar who seemed to be within touching distance till Monday morning, now seems as distant as a dream. Her hopes of meeting Hrithik have soared and crashed within a few days, in what appears to be yet another Net hoax.

At the behest of friend Abhishek, an “ardent Hrithik fan” like her, Reshmi entered an Internet contest organised by a Hrithik fan club in Bangalore, Hrithik.org. She answered 10 questions on her hero and wrote the mandatory slogan. Reshmi’s day was made when the club informed her last weekend that she was among the lucky three to make the final round in Mumbai, slated for May Day. sThe grand prize — a dinner date with heartthrob Hrithik at a five-star hotel in Mumbai.

So far, so good. But Reshmi and her parents were in for a rude shock on Monday. The fan club letter from Bangalore had instructed her to collect two air tickets (“as you are too young, you must be accompanied by a guardian”, it read) to Mumbai from the MusicWorld store on Park Street. But when Reshmi’s father met Dipra Jha, area sales manager, operations, MusicWorld, he was told that the store knew nothing about the “contest”.

The letter, signed by Suparna Kar for Hrithik.org, which directed the contestant to proceed to “International Book House Private Limited, Indian Mercantile Mansions (Extn), Madame Cama Road, Mumbai-400 001” also mentioned that “Standard Chartered Pvt Ltd sponsors this contest”, with “other associated companies... Jet Airways Pvt Limited, and Coca-Cola Pvt Limited”. Hotel Hindustan International and MusicWorld were named as the “coordinating enterprises” in Calcutta. On Monday, MusicWorld, Standard Chartered, Coca-Cola and Hotel Hindustan International denied any involvement in the dinner-date contest. “If we had lent our name to such a contest, I would have surely known,” said Ishmeet Singh, regional marketing manager, Coca-Cola India Ltd. Jha of MusicWorld added: “It does appear to be a case of fraud on the Net. We feel bad for the kid, but there’s nothing we can do.”

The turn of events has left Reshmi, a Class VI student of a Jadavpur school, crestfallen. “I just adore everything about Him. It would have been my dream come true... Why did someone have to play this cruel joke on me?” she asked, while still “secretly hoping” that the air tickets will somehow be delivered at her doorstep before May Day.

   

 
 
SALT LAKE IN THE DARK AFTER TRANSFORMER FIRE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
A fire broke out in a transformer in Salt Lake’s CA block at 8 pm on Monday, throwing the area into darkness for several hours. According to municipality authorities and local residents, the blaze resulted from a short circuit and engulfed the area in smoke.

The residents panicked when the heard the loud explosion, which was followed by a blackout. “We heard the bang and rushed out to discover the cause,” said C.S. Samal. “The extreme heat was making it difficult to stay indoors, anyway,’’ he added.

The fire brigade was informed and five engines rushed to the spot. Firemen fought the blaze for about half an hour before it was brought under control. The entire BA and CA blocks remained in darkness. A large crowd of residents gathered near the transformer and urged the authorities to repair it at the earliest.

“This is not the first instance of a transformer exploding in Salt Lake. We request the authorities to check the units and ensure that they don’t blow up so often, inconveniencing residents,’’ said Somesh Banerjee, another local.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
Calcutta, April 23: 

Man crushed to death

Fifty-year-old Brindaban Roy Choudhury was crushed under the wheels of a minibus around 11.15 am on Monday at the Jatindra Mohan Avenue-Grey Street intersection, in north Calcutta. Choudhury, who worked in a sweet shop, was boarding a private bus on route 3B (WB-25-4104), when the minibus rushed in to overtake the vehicle. He was taken to hospital, where doctors declared him dead. The minibus driver managed to escape with his vehicle. The private bus-driver fled, fearing a mob assault. Later, nearly 100 people blocked the carriageway, demanding action against rash driving in the area.

Two injured

Two persons were seriously injured in a clash between two groups of criminals in a restaurant on B.K. Road, in the the north port police station area, on Sunday night, police said on Monday. Notorious criminal Batul shot at his rival Sheikh Ikrar after an altercation. The bullet missed him and hit Binoy Roy, owner of the restaurant, on his shoulder. Roy was taken to hospital in a critical condition but was declared “stable” on Monday. Ikrar was also injured in the skirmish. A police picket has been posted in the area.

Woman found

Kum Kum Sengupta, 60, was found lying unconscious at the Prince Anwar Shah Road-Lake Gardens intersection on Sunday night. Kum Kum, a resident of Nepal Bhattacharjee Street, in the Kalighat police station area, was taken to M.R. Bangur Hospital by the police patrolling the area.

Tolly Club CEO

Air Commodore (retd) K.B. Menon is all set to take over as CEO of Tollygunge Club on May 1. “We have selected him from about 250 applicants for the post and we are confident that although this will be the first civilian job for him, the retired Air Force officer from Bangalore will be perfectly suited for the job,” said club vice-president Deepak Atal. The post fell vacant after M.J. Robertson quit and joined Sanjeevani Projects Pvt Ltd as chief executive, lifestyle division.

Wall clean-up

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation will ask the Trinamul Congress candidate of Bagbazar and the CPM candidate of B.K. Pal Avenue to clean up the CMC walls in those areas. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said the chief electoral officer has directed the civic body to do do.

Gariahat flyover

The civic authorities have alerted the transport department on the damage that might be caused to the underground brick sewer at Gariahat during the construction of the foundation of the flyover. Any damage to the brick sewer would cause waterlogging during the monsoon in the Gariahat and Ballygunge areas.

Metro delayed

Metro Rail services were disrupted for about half-an-hour on Monday from noon after a train developed technical snags when it was about to leave the Dum Dum terminus. “Two trains, scheduled to leave at 12 pm and 12.10 pm, were cancelled,” said a senior official.    

 
 
HIGHRISE IN A HOUSE OF GOD 
 
 
BY SOUMITRA DAS
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
The most disconcerting thing about St John’s Church, on Council House Street, close to Calcutta High Court, is that nowadays, a security guard stops you at the entrance and tells you that you have no business to be there unless you have come for prayers. A BBC Radio team was denied entry into the church about a month ago. Have the church precincts suddenly become a high security zone? Or is something fishy going on in this house of god?

For nearly two decades, the church has been embroiled in controversy because of continuous efforts to construct an eight-storeyed building on the hallowed grounds between Job Charnock’s mausoleum and the infamous monument erected by Lord Curzon to the memory of the alleged victims of the Black Hole, which was shifted from Dalhousie Square to this site in 1940.

The barricade, erected in the 80s to mark off the space meant to be developed, has become rusty with age. To replace it, a wall has already been constructed close to Charnock’s tomb and it’s only a matter of time before it is complete. Weeds run riot in the barricaded area but the mounds of stone chips are still visible there. A gamchha drying on a clothesline indicates that the makeshift shanties are inhabited by workers. This area can be entered through Church Lane too. A gate has been installed there.

The plan to develop this area was sanctioned by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) in June 1980. But work never progressed beyond barricading the area because of intransigent litigation. However, in July 1998, Calcutta High Court ordered it to be revalidated. Since the church is a heritage structure, the plan was to be placed before the heritage committee of the CMC for revalidation.

The heritage committee has asked the church authorities to prepare a plan which will be compatible with the location and environment of St John’s Church. But the church has not done so yet, so the issue did not make it to the agenda of the heritage committee meeting, held on Monday afternoon.

But does the church really have the right to develop the grounds? It is common knowledge that the huge plot was presented in 1783 by Maharaja Nabo Kissen Deb Bahadur, founder of the Sovabazar Raj family, to then Governor-General Warren Hastings and the church committee.

And the Maharaja’s descendants feel that since the land was gifted for erecting a house of god, the church authorities have no business to lease it out for commercial purposes.

Earlier, the entire Deb clan had shot off a letter of protest when they discovered that the plaque acknowledging the raja’s gift had been removed. The Diocesan Church Association, which manages the church’s affairs, had apologised for the remiss at that time.

And now Aloke Krishna Deb, a senior member of the clan and their spokesman, says they would not hesitate to go to court if construction work begins in the plot. The Bishop of the Church of North India was not available for comment, as he was out of town.

But the plot thickens as the flowering trees in the church ground besides the Bishop’s residence there have been cleared. Is something afoot there too?

   

 
 
MAGISTRATE BEATEN UP, THROWN OUT OF RUNNING TRAIN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
A sub-divisional judicial magistrate was beaten up and thrown off a running train on Monday.

Barely a month ago, another magistrate was beaten up and severely injured in a courtroom in Barrackpore by some litigants for “not hearing their case in time”.

The magistrates have already written to the home secretary and asked him to “take immediate steps to ensure their safety”.

Mani Sankar Dwivedi, SDJM (Uluberia), was coming to office by local train with his bodyguard. Suddenly, some youth pounced on him and proceeded to beat him up. When his bodyguard tried to intervene, the youth attacked him and pinned him down to the floor of the compartment.

Some passengers protested and tried to stop the train by pulling the chain. But, the youth continued to beat Dwivedi and his bodyguard. The train, by then, had already reached Phuleswar station and was slowing down.

The youth then threw Dwivedi out of the train. Severely injured, he was taken to Uluberia Sadar Hospital. Dwivedi’s family said he will be shifted to his Salt Lake residence.

A police officer in Howrah said it was Dwivedi’s bodyguard, who picked a fight with the daily passengers of the train. “The passengers did not recognise the bodyguard as he was not in uniform,” the officer added.

Uluberia police station officials confirmed that Dwivedi had lodged a complaint alleging that some miscreants had thrown him off a running train “for no apparent reason”.

Swapan Dhar, vice-president, West Bengal judicial services association, alleged that magistrates in the state were feeling insecure in the wake of the recent incidents of violence.

   

 
 
COPS HAMSTRUNG BY TAXI METERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
The police have sought a nod from the government to raise a force of technical hands to check rigged taxi meters. “Despite complaints pouring in of faulty taxi meters, we cannot book the drivers as staff of the public vehicles department, who have the technical expertise, do not back us up in time of need,’’ said deputy commissioner of police (traffic), K. Harirajan.

As the existing practice goes, when the police receive any complaint of a faulty taxi meter or when a raid in this regard is conducted, the public vehicles department is supposed to send along a team of experts, who test the meter in the presence of the police.

“We often have to abandon the drive against faulty meters as the technical officer from the PVD does not turn up. This despite the fact that we inform them of the date well in advance and even send over a vehicle to fetch them,’’ Harirajan said.

Public vehicles department director T.V. Venkatraman did not deny the allegation, but said he did not have manpower enough to assist the police in the drive against faulty meters.

“I have only 20 motor vehicle inspectors and a handful of technical persons. The department caters to 800,000 vehicles plying in and around the city. How can I spare staff to check taxi meters?’’ he asked.

The traffic police plan to have their own experts. “Checking meters is not a very complicated job. Anyone can acquire the knowledge within a week,’’said a senior officer of Lalbazar.

   

 
 
TV BLACKOUT FOR POLL STARS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
Satyajit Ray’s birth anniversary on May 2 will not be the same on the boob tube this year. The state election department has banned telecast of films and serials featuring actors who are contesting the May 10 Assembly elections.

On May 2, when cine buffs remember the maestro, classics like Charulata, Mahanagar, Kapurush — all featuring Madhabi Mukherjee — will not be telecast.

The CPM drew the attention of the chief electoral officer (CEO) to the telecast of films featuring actors like Tapas Pal, Madhabi Mukherjee and Noyona Das, all Trinamul Congress candidates.

In another gaffe by a private television channel, the apparently CPM-backed Akaash B billed a Tapas-starrer, Kenaram Becharam, as its Sunday night feature.

Avik Dutta, senior executive of Akaash B, said the film had to be telecast as it was pre-planned. “It will take some time for the channels to set their programmes according to the CEO’s directive,” Dutta said.

CEO Sabyasachi Sen was quick to send letters to all channels, asking them to refrain from beaming films and non-poll-related programmes featuring these personalities. “I have to tell them that they should abide by the same strictures that are followed by All-India Radio and Doordarshan,” Sen said.

“We had plans to show Ray’s best on his birth anniversary and now we have no option but to change our plans,” said Amit Chakraborty, senior vice-president of Tara Bangla. “We have to be very careful and abide by the Election Commission’s directive,” he stated.

The CPM had pointed out that Zee Cinema, Zee TV and Tara Bangla had telecast films featuring Trinamul candidates. Tara had beamed Baishey Shrabon featuring Madhabi on April 20, Zee Cinema on April 19 had shown Tapas’ Abodh and Zee TV had featured Matribhumi starring Noyona on the same day.

The CPM, loath to allow Trinamul silver screen personalities more mileage on television channels, has also pointed out to the CEO an advertisement in a Bengali daily promoting the telecast of a film starring some of the candidates on local channel CTVN.

Zee spokesman Sainath Iyer, when contacted in Mumbai, said they have no idea about such a directive, but will follow the guidelines as soon as they receive official notification. “We have no intention of flouting the EC’s directive,” Iyer said.

Ratikanta Basu, chairman of Broadcast Worldwide, the parent company of Tara Bangla, said there “was nothing wrong in implementing the order as it now applied to all television media”.

While the CPM has been campaigning against private television channels for projecting candidates opposed to them, Trinamul dismissed the allegations as baseless.

“We have no hand in the channels showing films featuring our candidates,” said Trinamul general secretary Gautam Basu. He said till recently, Tapas, Madhabi and Noyona were just actors. These were cultural channels and they did not have any political intent behind them, Basu added.

“It is not an act of bestowing political favour to us by these channels. It is just an inadvertent coincidence,” Basu asserted, speaking over phone from Mumbai.

   

 
 
PRISONER FIGHTS IN PEOPLE’S COURT 
 
 
BY BARUN GHOSH
 
Calcutta, April 23: 
He could have earned fame had he stuck to his dribbling skills. Instead, 28-year-old Gopal Tewari has had “fame” thrust upon him as he is the only undertrial in Alipore jail who has decided to venture into the election battlefield.

Gopal, an accused in a murder, filed his nomination as Shiv Sena candidate for the Jorabagan seat in central Calcutta.

Dacoits, robbers, petty thieves and several hundred other inmates are making a beeline to congratulate Gopal inside the jail. Even senior prison officials have started giving him special importance.

“I’m overwhelmed with the way fellow prisoners are encouraging me ever since I have filed the nomination with the jail superintendent. I’m getting encouragement from jail officials also,” said a smiling Gopal. “I’m confident of opening an account for Bal Thackerayji’s Shiv Sena in Bengal this time.”

Gopal spoke to The Telegraph today before he was produced in the chief metropolitan magistrate’s court. “This reminds me of the days when I received an award from then police commissioner B.K. Saha as the best footballer in my locality,” he said.

Gopal has been in prison since March 28, 2000, in connection with five cases pending against him, including murder. “I will put up a brave fight against those entering the fray from the Trinamul Congress, CPM and the BJP in the Jorabagan area,” he said, adding that he would ask for the court’s permission to go out of jail for a day or two for campaigning.

The undertrial said he was arrested in connection with a murder that took place in May 1999. “Police picked me up from my Pathuriaghat residence in Jorabagan after a man was shot dead in the locality. They also claimed to have recovered arms from my possession. But I must say that I have been falsely implicated in the murder case,” he claims. However, jail officials confirmed that Gopal was detained on specific charges.

So, does he want to follow in the footsteps of the prisoners-turned-politicians in the heartland? “This is my fight against the injustice meted out to me,” he says. “My priority will be to help the distressed people in society if I’m elected.”

Gopal is speaking like a politician even before he has become one.

   
 

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